Sunday, December 23, 2007

Ravioli Making Party

I was fortunate enough to be invited to a ravioli making party hosted by a family friend. Bethany had just returned from culinary school and was throwing a ravioli making party. She was making ravioli to give away as Christmas gifts but wanted to invite people to join in on the fun.

Beth had three fillings prepared for us: butternut squash and macadamia, mushroom and mozzarella cheese, and spinach, mint, and fontina cheese.

Because Beth had already prepared the pasta dough, all we had to do was assemble the ravioli. The first step was to roll homemade dough through the pasta machine. We started at the widest setting and rolled it through twice on each setting (for a total of five settings). We then put the flattened dough onto the table and cut out several circles.

We then squeezed a dollop of filling onto the circle...

and topped it off with another circle and pressed it closed.

The finished products were delicious! I cooked each of them up with a delicate sauce so that the flavors of the ravioli were not overshadowed. My family and boyfriend loved them! My favorite was the butternut squash, while my dad and boyfriend liked the mushroom. I think my boyfriend loved it so much that he bought me a pasta maker for Christmas!! (Nah, he knows how much fun I had making them. I’m so lucky to have such a thoughtful boyfriend!)

I'm so glad that I was able to experience this! Although it was a lot of work, it was a ton of fun, with a tasty reward at the end! I can't wait to make some fresh pasta of my own!

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Roy Yamaguchi

I had the opportunity to meet Chef Roy Yamaguchi at one of the Holiday Craft Fairs at the Blaisdell Center. I went to the booth to sample some of his salad dressing and the lady demonstrating it said that Roy himself was there to sign bottles. I feel so silly, but I have to admit, I was star-struck for the first time in my life! He’s a very talented chef, and each time that I’ve visited his restaurant I’ve enjoyed every aspect of it!

By the way, my mom bought his dressings are they're all very tasty!

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Red Wine Poached Pears with Mascarpone Filling

I wanted to make a special dessert for my dad's birthday so I decided to try Michael Chiarello's recipe for wine poached pears. It turned out to be an elegant way to end a special dinner!

Recipe from

6 firm Bartlett pears
1 bottle red wine
1 vanilla bean, whole
2 cinnamon sticks
2 bay leaves
2 cups sugar
2 (8 ounce) containers mascarpone cheese, softened
1/2 cup heavy cream
Pinch cinnamon
1/2 cup powdered sugar
2 tablespoons butter
Peel pears and leave stem intact. In a large saucepan, bring wine and an equal amount of cold water to a simmer. Split vanilla bean lengthwise and add to wine and water mixture. Add cinnamon sticks, bay leaves and sugar, to taste. Add pears to liquid and simmer for about 20 minutes or until tender. Cool pears in wine mixture to room temperature. You can refrigerate them in the poaching liquid until you're ready to fill them.
Remove stems from pears and set stems aside. Core pears with an apple corer, leaving pear whole.

Whisk together mascarpone cheese, heavy cream, pinch cinnamon and powdered sugar until smooth. Transfer to a pastry bag, or if you do not have one, use wax paper tightly wrapped into a cone with the corner snipped off. Pipe filling into cored pears and finish by putting the stems gently into the mascarpone filling on top of the pears.

Bring sauce up to a simmer and reduce by half. Add butter to reduced sauce and stir until combined. Spoon generously over pears. Cool to room temperature before serving.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Sam Choy's Diamond Head Restaurant

In Hawaii, Sam Choy is one of our famous celebrity chefs, with several cookbooks, an old local cooking show, and several appearances on the Food Network. Sam Choy has restaurants across the state, but his Diamond Head location is the most upscale. When the girls and I were looking for an affordable place to celebrate Christmas together we decided upon Sam Choy’s for the “early bird” special. This consisted of a four-course meal for only $30. With all of us on a budget, we thought this would be a great way to have a fine-dining experience without the high costs. So the girls and I got all dressed up and ready to celebrate the holidays, but to our dismay, me were extremely disappointed with the entire experience. It’s a good thing that we had each other because the only good part of the evening was the company!

I feel that I don’t even need to explain the food in great detail, because it was all so salty and rich. The soup was cold, the salad was drenched in dressing and topped with chewy beef, and the fish was smothered in a salty paste that looked unappetizing and tasted like a big salty mess. The dessert was a crème brulee, which was not bad, but nothing special. Ordering off the early bird menu should not be an excuse for providing a meal that is substandard.

The worst part of the night was the service. We spent way too much time waiting for our food and they mixed up our orders several times. One of my girlfriends ordered the chicken on the early bird menu, but instead they brought a different chicken entrée (that did not include the soup, salad or dessert). They did not refill our water and the waiter did not check up on us even once. We must have waited about 30 minutes just to get the check! When the waiter came with the check, he asked if we had enjoyed our evening, and I just had to tell him what I thought. When I explained that I was disappointed with the service, he responded by saying that he too was “disappointed” that he was not able to “spend more time with us.” He and the manager gave their apologies because they were understaffed for the night. They said that if we came back another time, they would be sure to “take care of us.” What that entails, I do not know, but I surely will not be returning to that restaurant again!

I was thoroughly disappointed that a place known for representing the cuisine of the Hawaiian Islands provided such a terrible experience. Being understaffed is no excuse, and we were left feeling neglected and hungry on a night that was supposed to be a celebration. This was not our ideal way to celebrate the holidays.

Sam Choy's Diamond Head Restaurant
449 Kapahulu Avenue
Honolulu, HI 96815

Thursday, November 22, 2007


When the Honolulu Design Center opened last year, my eyes were always drawn to the tall glass windows with over-sized white lanterns that overlooked Piikoi Street. The building itself is so impressive, and its mysterious interior designs excited my curiosity to find out more. If the design itself doesn't get you, the "couture cuisine" of Jon Matsubara will.

Stepping into the restaurant is like taking part in a theatrical performance with a black-and-white stage. Over-sized, sleek sculptures and gigantic photographs of artistically naked people moving in fluid actions create a somewhat eerie feeling of being reduced down in size, as you might feel if you had stage fright. Each table has its own character, each with a unique table, set of chairs, and an over-sized lamp. Accents of red flow throughout the black-and-white theme, and compliment the sea of lamps to create a playful atmosphere that off-sets the feeling of "stage fright." To add to the playfulness a bookshelf sits in the corner with rows of magazines sitting upside down.

My family and I sat at the "Fendi" designed table. The table itself was a snake-skinned covered table (with a glass top) with Fendi embellishments on the side. Above the table was a black lamp with a rhinestone Fendi emblem. I, myself, was impressed by this "designer" table; my father (manager of Salvatore Ferragamo) was (jokingly) insulted that there wasn't any Ferragamo tables.

The menu continues on with the theatrical theme as appetizers are called "overtures" and entrees are called "denouement."
After ordering appetizers, we were greeted by a server with a tray full of assorted dinner rolls. You are encouraged to try all of them throughout the night, and I highly encourage trying a variety (while still saving room for your meal) because they are very delicious! My favorite was the pumpkin roll, which was a slightly sweet and buttery roll that melts in your mouth, accented by toasty pumpkin seeds.

The appetizers were very inventive and equally satisfying. My family and I ordered the beet salad (the night's special), "STAGE Caesar Salad," Frog Legs "Kara-age," and White Bean Soup.

The beet salad was an elegant presentation of roasted golden beets atop a bed of goat cheese topped off with spiced walnuts and a light pesto. The goat cheese was delicate and creamy, pairing well with the sweet beets and crunchy walnuts. This was my favorite appetizer of the night and it deserves to be a regular on the menu!

The Stage Caesar Salad was the most inventive appetizer, as it was a variation on the "typical" caesar salad, as it was wrapped like a vietnamese summer roll. This salad used Hirabara Farms Baby Romaine Lettuce wrapped in Rice Paper and included heirloom tomatoes, Manchego cheese, garlic croutons, and a white anchovy vinaigrette. As you bite into the "roll" you immediately notice the tender rice paper and lettuce leaves and its pairing with the delicate, yet, flavorful vinaigrette.

The most daring appetizer on the menu was the Frog Legs "Kara-age." As daring as it sounds, the frog legs really did taste like chicken! The legs were covered in a light crispy batter and paired with a Torarashi Aioli and Japanese Citrus. This dish is better with frog legs than it would be with chicken because the frog legs were very tender and mild.

Next, the manager provided my family with a complementary appetizer (because my dad knew him) of a green tea soba salad with lightly seared Hamachi. The presentation looked impressive, as the dish looked like a flying saucer.

For my entree, I ordered the night's special, which as a Potato Scaled Mahi with Kahuku Prawns and a Kona Lobster Ahi Hash, served with an ancho chili tomato coulis. The mahi was covered with a skin of paper-thin potatoes and lightly fried to create a delicately crispy crust. This preparation reminded me of a dish I once saw on Top Chef. Honestly, this dish was not very memorable, and the sauce was over-powering and salty, which did not allow the flavors of the seafood to shine through.

My step-mom ordered the "Duet of Lamb" which she enjoyed. This dish was lamb prepared two ways: one was a Black Cardamom Spiced Lamb Chop with Green Olive and "Minus 8" Ice Wine Verjus, the second was a Tuscan Style Braised Lamb with Herb Salad and Parmesan Polenta.

The rest of my family ordered the Whole Crispy Moi. This moi was presented whole with the center removed, and filled with the fish, lightly battered tofu, watercress salad and bonito flakes, topped off with a spicy ponzu sauce. Although this dish was good, in retrospect, it did not seem to compare to the excitement of the appetizers and desserts.

The most exciting part of the evening was the dessert. Here, the playful characteristics of the restaurant and menu really have a chance to shine. Pastry Chef Mark Okumura offers a wide array of unique and decadent desserts.

To start, the restaurant presented me with a special birthday cake made from a delicate white cake with a strawberry filling. This was so perfect for me because I just love strawberries!

I ordered the "Fantasy of Chocolate" which is a fancy array of nine different chocolate desserts made from the finest chocolates. The presentation alone was enough to get me excited, but when I tasted each one of the chocolates I experienced bliss!

The other really great dessert was the "pop tart." This was a dressed-up version of the famous breakfast pastry. Although it even looked like a pop-tart, this dessert was much more special. The flaky outer shell was filled with Hawaiian vanilla, poached fuji apple and almonds. The dessert also included a wafer bowl filled with balsamic-cinnamon black currant ice cream. A very creative (and delicious) twist on an two old favorites! My apologies for the blurry picture!

Two other desserts that were fun, but not as exciting were the "milk and cookies" (two freshly baked oatmeal cookies with a warm chai milk) and the orange creamscicle dessert (orange sorbet floating in a vanilla syrup with sparkling voss water poured over).

The night ended with a plate of petite fours. I had absolutely no room for more, but after loving everything I had just tasted, I couldn't leave without just tasting each of them. They did not disappoint me. If I wasn't so full, it would have been a really nice way to end the meal!

Overall, the entire experience was overwhelmingly exciting. The service was excellent, as the servers, bussers, and sommelier all provided a comfortable dining experience. The least exciting part of the meal was the entree; but the appetizers and desserts made up for it ten-fold!

Honolulu Design Center
1250 Kapiolani Blvd.
Honolulu, HI

Saturday, November 17, 2007

The Wedding Cafe

Every girl dreams of what her wedding day would be like...the guy, the flowers, the music, everything! Manoa Marketplace has a little cafe that provides a wealth of information when it comes to that big day! The Wedding Cafe is an ingenious combination of a wedding resource center and a cafe. Future bride and grooms can make plans for their perfect wedding while enjoying a bite to eat.

My girlfriends and I are not anywhere close to that big day, but we like to dream. For my birthday, we decided to have lunch at the Wedding Cafe and then head over to Manoa Nails to get pedicures! Talk about a girls-day-out! :) The wedding cafe has a girly and stylish ambience that inspires romance. To top it all off, there was an extra bit of special-ness that day because my boyfriend's sister and brother-in-law (Shandis and Adam) had flowers waiting for me when I got there!! :)

The menu consists of salads, soups, sandwiches, desserts, coffee, and tea. All are fresh, yummy, and very reasonably priced!

The beef barely soup was tasty, and best of all, it was elegantly served in a mug.

The chicken walnut garden salad is a mixture of shredded chicken, mayonnaise, and walnuts on top of a bed of romaine lettuce. Unlike many other places that load their chicken salad with mayonnaise so that it tastes like I'm eating chicken with my mayonnaise, this one had just the right amount!

Each sandwich comes with two pretzels and a pickle. Perfect complements to a sandwich! :)

The best part of the lunch was my complimentary birthday cake! It was a chocolate spooncake... a warm gooey chocolate cake topped with whipped cream! It was soooo good that there wasn't a single bite left after my girlfriends and I devoured it!

The wedding cafe is a great place for lunch even if you're not planning a wedding! It provides a cozy atmosphere and offers great food at reasonable prices! The owners just recently opened up a new cafe in Ward Center that focuses more on the cafe than the wedding resources. The menu is the same; however the food is served on styrofoam plates rather than ceramic.

The Wedding Cafe
Second Floor of Manoa Marketplace
2752 Woodlawn Drive Suite 5-209
Honolulu, HI 96822

Friday, November 16, 2007

A Special Birthday Dinner

For my birthday, my boyfriend, Scott, prepared me a special meal! :) He knows how much I love cooking and eating healthy, so he took these two important bits of information into consideration when planning my birthday. He also took into consideration one of the important aspects of a dining experience: ambience! He had flowers on the table, with candles, dim lighting, and soft music. Very romantic! :)

He tossed whole wheat fettuccine with olive oil, garlic, capers, and a bit of lemon and topped it off with a nicely seasoned salmon.

He even opened up a bottle of wine that he had been keeping for a few years! :)

Thank You, Scott for such a special dinner! This was worth more than any restaurant reservation!!
Its because of Scott that many of these blog entries exist, because he pays for me to eat so well even when its not my birthday.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Panya Bistro

Panya Bistro was a fun place for my girlfriends and I to hang out because it provided a fun and modern atmosphere. The decor can be described as "chic" and the first thing you notice when you walk in, is the liquor lined up on the back-lit glass shelf. Although the restaurant was small, we felt that we could hang out and chat for some time. The food was not the greatest; but the dessert was well worth it! :)

My salad included a bed of romaine lettuce, strawberries, green apples, red onions, tomatoes, and salmon sashimi. This was an interesting combination of flavors and I'm not sure I enjoyed the strawberries with the salmon.

The vegetable sandwich was very disappointing. Without much of a description on the menu, we assumed that it would be a hot, grilled vegetable sandwich. Instead it is wheat bread filled with mustard, lettuce, mushrooms, and avocados. Not much of a sandwich...

If you're in the mood for dessert, Panya is the place to go! The green tea azuki roll was so delicious. The outer layer is a moist cake made with a strong green tea flavor and it is rolled with a sweet azuki cream filling! A very excellent flavor combination!

I'm already a fan of Panya's Hokkaido Bread (which is a light, fluffy sweet bread), so I had to try their Hokkaido Bread Pudding. The sweet creamy pudding sauce was heavenly when paired with the famous Hokkaido Bread!!

Also delicious was the Japanese Cheesecake! This version of the rich American Classic was fluffy with a delicate flavor. This was my kind of cheesecake because I don't usually care for the rich, dense dessert that most people think of when they hear "cheesecake."

Panya also offers a number of fun cocktails that can be great in combination with dessert. Next time, I think my girlfriends and I will just stick to dessert and drinks!

Panya Bistro
Mall Level of Ala Moana Center (Near Gap)

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Goma Tei

To me, nothing says "comfort food" more than a nice, steaming hot bowl of noodles. When I discovered Goma Tei at Ward Center, I was hooked. After my first visit, it wasn't long until I craved Goma Tei's ramen again and I was fortunate enough to visit this place twice in one month! :)

Goma Tei is known for their "Tan Tan Ramen" which is ramen made with a spicy, nutty broth. Tan Tan Ramen has its roots in China's Sichuan Prefecture and it consists of a pork and chicken broth with a rich sesame sauce. This ramen has gained popularity in Japan and we now have two restaurants (that I know of) in Hawaii. I first tried Tan Tan Ramen at Goma Ichi, and I wasn't entirely impressed. Goma Tei, however, was worth a second visit (and more)!

At Goma Tei, you can choose from several appetizers including gyoza, chicken tatsutaage (fried chicken) or ban ban ji chicken. The ban ban ji chicken was slices of cold, poached chicken sitting atop a bed of sliced cucumbers, topped with a soy-sesame type sauce. If I had to choose another side dish, it probably wouldn't be this one again. Although the sauce was tasty, with hints of the delicious broth, the chicken was a bit dry. After leaving the restaurant, I read the article on the window and found out that the chicken tatsutaage might have been a better choice. This chicken is marinated with apples, ginger, garlic, sake, and the secret soy sauce and then dredged in starch to fry up in a crispy outer coating.

Even though the chicken was just "okay" the ramen made up for it ten-fold! :) At Goma Tei, you can choose from shoyu ramen and tan tan ramen. I haven't tried the shoyu ramen because once trying the tan tan ramen, its hard to order ordinary shoyu ramen. The tan tan broth is so rich with flavor that I can't imagine a shoyu broth would have as much character! Each bowl of ramen is prepared using Sun Noodles, and they are cooked with a slightly chewy texture..just the way I like it! The Vegetable TanTan Ramen is topped with choi sum, carrots, green onions, and three varieties of mushrooms: shiitake, button, and straw.

The Char-Siu Tan Tan Ramen included slices of Char-Siu and choi sum. This one was also a good choice; however the Char-Siu at Yotteko-Ya was much more tender and flavorful.

The cold vegetable ramen was also very very tasty! It included the same vegetables as the Tan Tan Ramen but it was served with a sesame-soy sauce. This sauce was so rich in flavor, I almost thought it was made from miso; however upon tasting it further I was pretty sure that it was sesame. The sauce had the same nutty characteristics as the broth and also had a kick of spicy-ness. If you're in the mood for something more refreshing, this is an excellent choice!

As I was observing the other customers order, I noticed that the curry was also very popular. The curry is next on my list! Oh! And I almost forgot... when visiting Goma Tei, don't forget to order a glass of Kirin because its half price! :) You can enjoy a nice cold glass of beer for a little less than two dollars!

Goma Tei
Ward Center (Near Borders)
1200 Ala Moana Blvd. Suite 42
Honolulu, HI 96814

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Restaurant Epic - Happy Hour

Restaurant Epic opened its doors to customers in February 2007. After being opened for less than two months, owners David Chang and Kenneth and Jennifer Chan (of Little Village Noodle House) closed their doors due to poor reviews and a dire need for re-organization. Since then, Epic has made changes for the better and the rave reviews just keep pouring in. As I walked past the restaurant on the way to work each day, I noticed a banner that read, "Happy Hour" and I could not resist trying it! I told my boyfriend all about it and he treated me to some drinks and pupus one day after work.

The first thing that I ordered was their signature Mojito and it was delicious!! :) It was by far, the best Mojito I've had with just the right amount of mint and lime!

There were about ten different items on the happy hour menu and let me tell you, it was a tough decision! Everything sounded really yummy and for the price it was really tempting to order one of each! We narrowed it down to three choices a poketini, kalua pig spring rolls, and a sushi.

The poketini was a spicy ahi poke on top of a layer of avocado served in a martini glass. It was an elegant presentation and an interesting spin on the classic ahi poke that you get in the grocery store. I enjoyed the combination of the ahi with the spicy sauce and the avocado balanced out the flavors nicely. On the down side, there were occasional bites of ahi that didn't taste very fresh, leaving a "fishy" taste in my mouth.

The most interesting thing on the menu was the Kalua Pig Spring Rolls. This variation of the classic spring rolls used smoky kalua pork in place of ground pork. Each spring roll was fried to leave a crispy outer shell that was flaky, and not too greasy. The spring rolls were topped with a mango chutney. I have to admit, I thought the chutney was strange at first, and when I tasted it alone, I did not like it. After eating it together with the kalua pig spring rolls, I quickly changed my mind. The spices and the sweetness of the chutney really complimented the crispy, smokey spring rolls. I thought this dish was very creative!

There were a number of interesting sushis to choose from, including one with steak. The one that we chose had a crab, scallop, shrimp mixture with avocado and cucumber topped off with some tobiko. The roll was small enough that I could (elegantly) fit one whole piece in my mouth, which allowed me to appreciate all the flavors and textures at once. Although I usually don't care for sushi with heavy mayonnaise fillings, this one was delicious!

This restaurant offered "Epic"urean worthy food for a bargain price! :) Perfect for my budget...
I'm not sure if the restaurant still offers their happy hour because I haven't seen the banner recently. Nevertheless, their food and drinks are well-worth the regular price! I had a chance to look at their full menu and everything sounded so delicious, I was tempted to stay for dinner too!! I'll surely be visiting Epic again soon!

Restaurant Epic
1131 Nuuanu Avenue
Honolulu, HI

Friday, October 26, 2007


Around the Ala Moana area, Kapiolani Boulevard is cluttered with a sea of adult-only venues. Look closely, however, and you will find an unexpected jewel of a restaurant. Nestled between two strip clubs sits an unassuming Japan-inspired doorway. Step inside and you are taken away from the busy city, into what feels like a little mom and pop restaruant on the side streets of Japan. The aromas, modest decor, and welcoming employees all combine to create a memorable Japanese experience.

My girlfriends and I spontaneously decided to have dinner here one night as we walked toward Ala Moana after the Bridal Expo at the Convention Center. Our first impression was, "kinda sketchy;" however something inside me knew that this place was going to be special. Inside, there are only about 6 tables, the sushi bar, and a side room with tatami floors. The tiny restaurant was busy; but luckily there was one table open with the perfect amount of seats for my girlfriends and I. We were immediatly greeted and served with tea, edamame, and tsukemono.

The menu offers the traditional tempura and grilled fish selections; however I went straight for the sushi! The chirashi sushi included generous slices of ahi, salmon, mirugai (clam), shrimp, and more. As I took my first bite, the buttery salmon melted in my mouth and blended perfectly with the expertly seasoned sushi rice! Delicious!

My girlfriends all decided order the misoyaki butterfish, which was served with miso soup, rice, and salad. The person sitting next to us was enjoying their butterfish so much that they all couldn't resist it! The butterfish prepared so that the fish was still tender and the sections peeled away with ease. Each bite just melted in your mouth!

As we enjoyed our meal, we noticed that people were ordering sizzling platters of scallops topped with a mayonnaise-type sauce. I later learned that these "butteryaki scallops" are one of the restaurant's signature dishes. I will surely try that the next time I visit Akasaka!

Another thing to note is that Akasaka is open until 2am, so the late night crowd can enjoy quality sushi!

1646B Kona Street
Honolulu, HI